March M.A.N.T.I.S. is taking you one by one through every episode of the ’94-’95 superhero FOX series M.A.N.T.I.S. throughout the month of March (natch). Using the POW (Plot, Opinion, What’s Next?) format, I am watching each installment and sharing with all of my feelings and observations regarding each episode.
So strap on your exoskeleton, settle into your hovercraft, and load up on paralysis darts. But most importantly? Enjoy.
Today’s Episode: Episode 15: The Sea Wasp
P: Dr. Wallace Allan (Andrew Airlie) sits alone in the aquarium he runs, awaiting the arrival of his employee and extra-marital lover Dr. Marissa Savoy (Cec Verrell). When she arrives at the darkened aquarium (Romantic or creepy? You decide!), he break things off with her lickety-split. She touches him a lot, leaves phosphorescent streaks on his skin, but he reveals he knows what’s up and has inoculated himself against her pheromones. It is important to note her that Dr. Marissa Savoy is not a pseudonym of Dr. Pamela Isley (look it up non-comic fans!) and they share no traits in common. None!
Freed of the pheromone using seductress, the now once again good Doctor heads home to his loving wife. However, before he could arrive, some bizarre handed creature attacks him from the backseat. After the opening credits, it becomes clear that whatever the creature was, it proved his doom. He’s discovered slumped over in the front seat of his car, where we last left him, his face a map of new scars and no sign of the bizarre perpetrator.
While the doctor is getting himself deaded by monster hands, Maxwell is angry in a park, lured out there by Hawkins in the middle of the night but he’s nowhere to be seen. After letting her stew for a bit, because, hey the cop that has your secret and is ambivalent about keeping it is definitely someone you want to hassle, Hawkins shows up as the Mantis and takes her for a spin in the Chrysalis. Suddenly, she’s fully on-board, all smiles so the Mantis takes it to the next level and brings her to the Sea Pod. The risk pays off and Maxwell signs on in full. I guess that whole hassling thing does work. My apologies to Hawkins & Co.
Savoy shows up for work looking no worse for the wear despite what I’m sure was a crushing breakup. Except, well, there’s her monster hands and her phosphorescent by way of TERMINATOR II half-face. Hey, I bet she’s The Sea Wasp.
Here, we also meet her three interns (I think…there’s reference to college credits), Richard (Derek Webster), Troy (Alec Mapa), and Mark (Noah Heney). Richard has doubts so Savoy lays the pheromones on him, promises him sexy time as he chews on her neck. Then he shows up dead. So, unless there’s a twist here, Savoy’s our murderer.
The discovery of Richard’s body puts Hawkins in Savoy’s orbit as he is called in to consult. She touches his hand and leaves a drop of the green stuff on his skin. The way he perks up, we know this stuff is super potent.
As Hawkins & Co. investigate how these people are dying from sea wasp stings while on dry land, we find out that Savoy and her remaining interns are hybrids preparing to live life in the ocean, presumably when global warming (yeah, like that’s a real thing) makes coastal regions unlivable due to being submerged in sea water. Unfortunately, it is a process that’s nowhere near done and with Allan’s regaining of his senses and death, Savoy is out her funding. Without it, the mutation will overrun them so they need a new patron. Perhaps one with an exoskeleton?
Wouldn’t you know it, it does. Savoy visits the feeling ill Hawkins at his home to further the whammy on him and is interrupted by Maxwell. Both Hawkins and Maxwell end up hospitalized, the sea wasp pheromone and venom apparently both no good for people. Hawkins is roused first by a hallucination of Savoy that looks like a perfume company. A hallucination of an all in white (dare I say virginal?) virginal (yes I do!) Maxwell appears as well, trying to stop Hawkins from going to Savoy but apparently her charms are weak in comparison to half-sea creature lady. Any kid who grew up with Ariel in The Little Mermaid could’ve told you that. Am I right, guys? High five for red-headed mermaids!
Actually, one more thing here. This is the second time in four episodes a virginal, spectral Maxwell has attempted to persuade Hawkins to do something--one good and one bad-- and both times it has not worked. I feel I must draw the following conclusions: Hawkins has some odd ideas about gender relations and/or female sexuality and his love for Maxwell must not be all that strong.
Anyway... (for real this time)
Hawkins bounces from the hospital, after trapping bike messenger in the bathroom, and offers Savoy money to keep researching stuff and then shows her the Sea Pod. Apparently he’s all about undercutting his relationship with Maxwell this episode.
Bike messenger gets free and gets to Stonebrake just as Stonebrake sorts out that Allan used an anti-pheromone. Putting together the rest of the situation, the duo run off to the aquarium to find said chemical and free their friend from the underwater Poison Ivy’s grasp.
The second intern, Mark, dies because his mutation is out of control and he refuses to go underwater (it turns out humans might not be mentally built to spend all that time underwater in the dark even if they physically can). Savoy coldly orders Troy to push him into the ocean and move on.
Stonebrake and bike messenger break into the aquarium successfully and find the antidote .To make life easier, it turns out Savoy and her new superhero thrall are already there. The Mantis, on her behalf, seizes them after they witness her glowing in one of the tanks, well on her way to full-on humanoid Sea Wasp.
No worries though, Stonebrake puts a syringe of anti-pheromone into the Mantis’s neck (ouch!). As the hero regains his senses, Stonebrake dodges attacks and bike messenger rumbles with Troy. In the end, back in control, the Mantis tosses Savoy into a fresh water take in an act of what turns out to be straight up murder. She thrashes around in what appears to be a LOT of pain until she dissolves and Hawkins & Co. stands feet away, able to help, and choosing not to. Heroes everybody!
The episode closes on Hawkins bringing Maxwell flowers as she checks out of the hospital. Stonebrake turned him in on the whole “wanting to get with a half fish lady” (dude, misters before sisters!) but Maxwell lets him off the hook by implying maybe she’ll use some of that pheromone on Hawkins sometimes soon. Maxwell is, apparently, super kinky. Good for her, says I.
O: First, yes, the Mantis blatantly kills someone here. A week after he specifically intervened to stop a man from murdering the people that tried to kill him, he tosses a woman into what appears to be the most painful possible death. So…yeah, that’s difficult to deal with.
Maxwell continues to be a problematic character as the writers cannot decide what to do with her. Since she found out about Hawkins’ secret, she has been written as being very upset and then immediately cool about in the course of one episode (“Through the Dark Circle”), in love with him years and years later (“The Eyes Beyond”), very angry but resigned to keep the secret (“Faces in the Mask), and, here, easily swayed by a hovercraft ride and implying she wants to get down by episode’s end. I can live with any of these characterizations but perhaps not all of them at once.
Overall, the episode is…ok. It does a good job with its meager special effects budget creating perhaps not a “realistic” hybrid but one weird enough that you are not acingly aware of the seams, if you will. I would’ve preferred a slow burn of a build-up of Hawkins chemical seduction...I think that would’ve been a more engaging story. However, in a 45 minute episode with significant tracks to lay, perhaps this was the best they could manage.
With Maxwell apparently really, truly on board (although who knows who she’ll be next week), I am interested to see how Hawkins & Co will work as a foursome with one member in the police department.
W: A dying scientist turns to abducting Hawkins and installing a clone in his place in a rather complicated plot to save his own life in “Progenitor.”